Georgia - Missouri Peview

WILL MISSOURI TURN TO MISERY FOR THE TIGERS...OR THE SEC?

We're now on Day Two of our look at the SEC debuts this week for Texas A&M and Missouri. Please check the archives for yesterday's stat preview of Florida-Texas A&M. Today, we look at a Georgia-Missouri game that has been getting a lot of attention from sharp bettors in Las Vegas.

Note that this game has been time-changed to prime time for national television. The ESPN family of networks considers it the showcase game of the day even though Missouri currently isn't in the AP Top 25. Should they impress Saturday Night, they will be. By midnight, we'll all have a much better sense of the impact Texas A&M and Missouri will or won't have in their new environs.

GEORGIA AT MISSOURI (7:45 p.m. on ESPN)
Las Vegas Spread: Georgia by 2, total of 54

The line opened at Georgia -3 as a road favorite. Early money was on Missouri to such a degree that the line dropped to only -1.5 at midweek. Some Georgia money came back in at that point. That suggests a very competitive game is at hand, with support for both teams showing up within a tight range. Home field is normally worth three points in college football, but it might be worth four at a site like this...particularly in a night game in front of a rowdy crowd that wants to introduce itself to a new conference. Georgia would be considered a 5-6 point favorite on a neutral field, and would be laying slightly more than a touchdown if this game were in Athens.

2012 AP POLL RANKINGS
Georgia: 7th
Missouri: 36th (counting additional teams receiving votes)

It's funny that Missouri and Texas A&M are so close together in the rankings. They're one spot away from each other, but inexplicably behind the Texas State squad that upset Houston last week. Sorry, Houston may be horrible this year. There's no way any respectable rating system would have both Missouri and Texas A&M trailing Texas State! Missouri fans sure believe their team should be ranked. That's part of what's fueling the local anticipation for this game. 

2012 ATHLON MAGAZINE RANKINGS
Georgia: 8th
Missouri: 31st

Well, sorry Missouri fans. Even Athlon didn't have you guys in the Top 25 in their summer previews. We're certainly very interested to see how the Big 12 expats play this week. There aren't a lot of bowls matching the Big 12 and the SEC, particularly in the upper half of the leagues. What if the whole SEC East had moved into the Big 12? Missouri is in the SEC East now...and is ready to show that they belong.

HEAD COACHES
Georgia: Mark Richt
Missouri: Gary Pinkel

We have known quantities here. Both have fans and both have critics. Expectations have been higher for Georgia in recent seasons, so the critics of Richt have been a bit louder. A big picture factor we'll be studying over the next few years is whether or not Pinkel's pipeline to Texas athletes dries up. He was able to bring in kids who just missed the cut at the major Texas schools with the promise that their families and friends would be able to see them play a lot within Big 12 battles. Selling the SEC East is tougher for that particular issue, even if it's an upgrade in prestige.

QUARTERBACKS
Georgia: Aaron Murray
Missouri: James Franklin

Productive quarterbacks who get the job done fairly regularly, but make just enough mistakes to frustrate fans in big games. Franklin's legs can be a difference-maker when scrambling. But, if he takes a hard hit or two then he's going to regret that approach. This isn't the Big 12 where they let you run out of bounds. The SEC hurts people. The South Carolina quarterback still can lift his arm above his shoulder after taking a hit against Vandy last Thursday.

OFFENSES
Georgia: Returns 6 starters from the 39th ranked offense
Missouri: Returns 5 starters from the 12th ranked offense
Last Week: Those actually grade out fairly evenly when you adjust for context. Ranking 39th against a schedule that features a lot of SEC defenses is very strong...while ranking 12th in the Big 12 isn't as good as it seems because there are so many shootouts involving relatively passive defenses. Last week Georgia made a run at 500 yards vs. Buffalo...but they only scored 45 points against a Vegas spread of 38. Missouri took care of business quickly in a scrimmage against SE Louisiana. We'll run those numbers in a bit.

DEFENSES
Georgia: Returns 10 starters from the 5th ranked defense
Missouri: Returns 5 starters from the 61st ranked defense
Last Week: The biggest news for us last week was that Georgia's defense played with so little fire vs. Buffalo. When you have that many starters back from a great defense, you shouldn't be allowing almost 350 yards and almost 200 yards rushing to a lousy team like Buffalo. Were the Bulldogs just holding back for this week? Missouri hasn't been tested yet. They will be.

LAST WEEK'S BOXSCORES

GEORGIA 45, BUFFALO 23
Total Yardage: Buffalo 347, Georgia 485
Rushing Yardage: Buffalo 199, Georgia 227
Passing Stats: Buffalo 14-25-0-148, Georgia 15-27-0-258
Turnovers: Buffalo 0, Georgia 0
Third Downs: Buffalo 33%, Georgia 59%
Vegas Line: Georgia by 37

That's a disappointing result for a 37-point favorite, though it's hard to complain about 59% on third downs, 45 points and 485 total yards. Again, it was the defense that was an issue. Georgia didn't do what a Top 10 team is supposed to in that kind of game. It may be something nobody remembers a few weeks from now. Everyone is going to remember what happens in Missouri.

MISSOURI 62, SE LOUISIANA 10
Total Yardage: SE Louisiana 223, Missouri 452
Rushing Yardage: SE Louisiana 58, Missouri 261
Passing Stats: SE Louisiana 21-34-1-165, Missouri 18-26-0-191
Turnovers: SE Louisiana 4, Missouri 0
Third Downs: SE Louisiana 38%, Missouri 30%

Missouri scored four non-offensive TD's, including two in the first quarter as they built a 28-0 lead. You have to assume they called off the dogs after that in terms of offensive production. There's no point in winning 83-10 particularly when you want to keep everyone healthy for the Georgia game. But, we can't scold Georgia and not scold Missouri for statistical underachievement. Missouri should have done better on third downs and in total yardage than you see above.

BEST EXPECTATION
Given the high energy atmosphere, and the likelihood that we'll see aggressive offenses going hard for 60 full minutes...you have to think about the Over here. Georgia has been known to find themselves in shootouts when stepping outside of the conference (or even when playing South Carolina within the conference). We could find that the former Big 12 schools help lift the tempo of the SEC, which leads to higher scoring games than SEC fans are used to seeing. We're not going to talk too much about the team side here because this game is very likely to show up on the card for JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK as either a major release or part of a TV Triple Crown. We will say this. We believe turnovers will be the determining factor for who covers the spread...whether that's in a surprisingly one-sided game or in a barnburner thriller.

You can purchase JIM HURLEY'S Saturday slate right here at the website with your credit card. There are several big TV games we're looking at for serious play. Among the night time possibilities are Nebraska-UCLA on FOX, Washington at LSU on ESPN, and Oklahoma State at Arizona on the Pac 12 Network. If you have any questions about our service, call the office during the day Saturday at 1-800-323-4453. One of our representatives will be happy to help you out.

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